Most people don’t realize that sleep deprivation is a very effective method of torture. Srsly. Ask any POW and they will likely talk about their experience with sleep deprivation and what it did to their mind and body.
My first husband used sleep deprivation in order to control me. To this day I do not know if he did it deliberately, but I strongly suspect that he did. He was a tweaker (a person who uses meth) and so would spend days at a time awake and hyper, his thoughts and actions erratic and unpredictable. Since he refused to get or hold a job, it was up to me to make enough money for us to pay rent and eat and enjoy all the modern conveniences that we had become accustomed to, like running water and electricity. To that end, I sometimes worked two jobs to keep body and soul together. In return, he stole money and checks from me and made sure that I was always too tired to fight him.
Every night, I would be swaying on my feet before he would allow me to go to bed. I do mean “allow” – he would physically keep me from laying down while talking a mile a minute and demanding I respond to him. After I fell asleep, usually within minutes, he would find reasons to wake me up, asking me questions, making demands, whatever. He did this every hour or (if I was lucky) two all night long. When morning came, I was more exhausted than when I laid down, stomach in knots, hands shaking, light-headed, a total wreck. I would be a zombie all day at work and then come home to start all over again.
This went on for nearly four years. It came on so slowly that I didn’t realize what was happening. People started to look at me with concern, asking why I was so thin, why the dark circles under my eyes, etc. I had no answer. How could I? I could not form a coherent sentence by the end, constantly worn to a frazzle, unable to object to anything that he wanted if only he would let me take a little nap. I was having hallucinations and became uncertain of what was real and what was not. I became emotionally dead – I just had no energy for anything resembling a rational response to my environment. I see pictures of myself from those days and I don’t recognise the people in them. No memory of them at all. I asked my Sis who some guy was in a picture and she gave me a look of such surprise – he and she had been together for a few years, he had run up her credit card and then left her hanging, etc. etc. I have absolutely no memory of the guy, but there I am in a picture with him.
When I finally got out of that situation, I began to nap. Every.Day.That.I.Could. I mean, seriously nap. And sleep long hours at night. It got to the point where I guarded my sleep against any and all comers, frankly telling anyone who wanted to keep me up late that I was not interested. If I did stay up late and felt tired the next day it brought back memories of that terrible time so strongly that I began to sleep longer to avoid that awful feeling of those days. I may have gone a bit overboard, but my sleep was, and is, very important to me. M does not understand (even though I have spelled it out to him, explicitly – he feels that I “should be over that by now”) that I need more sleep than the average person and that I am unwilling to give up those hours to do something that is important to him, or not important all.
I now refuse to lose weight for M or anyone else. I am not fat, I’m not even close to what passes for “average” in America. I am 5′-8″ tall and weigh about 130. M would prefer that I weigh 120 or less, because then I “would be so hot.” Being too thin does not make me feel “good,” it brings back those awful times again in full force.
All this to say that I’m being awakened several times a night by our geriatric dog who has decided that she needs to go outside during the night. I don’t really begrudge her age-related infirmities, but damn! I’m getting those old feelings of oppression back. Loss of appetite. The constant desire for a nap. And before you ask, no, M can’t take her out – his disability prevents him from getting out of bed fast enough – when the dog has to go, she has to go now!